Background to the Psalms



Many of the psalms were written by King David.

This golden statue above the organ at Berlin cathedral is in recognition of this.





   Read more and check out the links.

    Who was David?

     Born: c. 1040 B.C.
     Died: c. 970 B.C.
     Birthplace: Bethlehem, Judea
     Best known as: The child giant-slayer who became Israel's king

The eighth and youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem, David is appointed to
be court musician and armour-bearer for Israel's first king, Saul. The boy kills
a giant enemy soldier, Goliath, becomes intimate friends with Saul's son,Jonathan,
and eventually succeeds Saul as king. 


Under David's rule (circa 1010 to 970 B.C.), Israel's regions unite and win battles
with surrounding enemies. Jerusalem comes to be known as the "City of David"
and the centre of government and worship. David's turbulent personal life includes
adultery with a soldier's wife, Bathsheba, and the death of his own rebel son, Absalom. 


Before he dies he anoints another son, Solomon, the next king. David's lineage holds
an honoured place in two religions: Judaism, which awaits the coming of the "Messiah,
son of David," and Christianity, whose scriptures trace Jesus's Davidic ancestry.


Extra facts

Islam's Koran lists David as a prophet (Sura 6), noting in Sura 38 his repentance for
his sin with Bathsheba.

Michelangelo's sculpture of David is considered a classic of Renaissance art.

The Star of David, a Jewish symbol in recent centuries, appears on the flag of the
 modern state of Israel.

Read more





Psalm 1 Good News Translation (GNT)

1 Happy are those
    who reject the advice of evil people,
    who do not follow the example of sinners
    or join those who have no use for God.
Instead, they find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord,
    and they study it day and night.
They are like trees that grow beside a stream,
    that bear fruit at the right time,
    and whose leaves do not dry up.
They succeed in everything they do.

But evil people are not like this at all;
    they are like straw that the wind blows away.
Sinners will be condemned by God
    and kept apart from God's own people.
The righteous are guided and protected by the Lord,
    but the evil are on the way to their doom.



The Book of Psalms is filled with images, and the first images in the
Psalter are of two roads (or a ways) and of a tree. The roads signal
the directions one takes in life -- and the roads are characterized not
by their geography ("you take the high road and I'll take the low road")
but rather by who walks on each road and to whom each road belongs.

Down one road walk the wicked (those who do not depend on God),
sinners (those who rebel against God's will), and the scoffers (those
who mock God). This road belongs to those who tread its path. This
road leads nowhere. Those who take this road end up being non-resilient
-- they cannot take suffering. Down the other road walk the righteous
(those who depend on God). This other road belongs not to those who
take it, but to God -- who watches over it.

The other picture in Psalm 1 is of a tree. Those who depend on God (the
righteous) are like a tree, whose roots are sunk deep into the earth next
to an irrigation stream. Because of this, the tree can flourish -- even when
the going gets tough. Like this tree, which drinks deeply from streams of
water, the righteous drink daily from God's Word. They are resilient, but
God watches over the paths they walk.

Psalm 1 introduces the entire Book of Psalms, and says that the Psalms
are ‘Torah’ (instruction or teaching). Psalm 1 makes a promise about the
psalms: Those who drink deeply from the psalms will find a sustainable
source of spiritual drink. A source that sustains one on the road of life and
a source that will never run dry.





Psalm 113

New International Version (NIV)

Psalm 113

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise the Lord, you his servants;
    praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
    both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
    the name of the Lord is to be praised.

The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
    his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
    the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
    on the heavens and the earth?

He raises the poor from the dust
    and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
    with the princes of his people.
He settles the childless woman in her home
    as a happy mother of children.

Praise the Lord.


  1. Psalm 113:1 Hebrew Hallelu Yah; also in verse 9


The ‘Hallel’ Psalms (Psalms of Praise) is the name given to
Psalms 113-118. They are also called “The Egyptian Hallel,”
because they were chanted in the temple while the Passover
lambs were being slain during Jewish festivals, in remembrance
of the “Passover” & Exodus from Egypt. Psalm 113 is a classic
hymn of praise -- perhaps we can consider it the class hymn of
praise -- perfectly embodying the form of a praise psalm: opening
call to praise, reasons for praise, closing call to praise. It begins
with a triune call to praise, which names the object of praise.

The opening call to praise
 1) names whom to praise (the Lord);
 2) who is to do the praising (the servants of the Lord); and again,
more specifically how to address our praise (to the name of the Lord).

One important aspect here is the connection between praise and
being servants of the Lord. Praise is one of the ways that we can
become servants of the Lord. In the very act of praising God, we
become God’s own people. And the name of the Lord -- YHWH
-- is how we address our praise. This is not generic feeling good
or telling an unhearing, impersonal universe that we are grateful
for life. Our praise is to the personal and communal God of the
Bible and is not only in an act of worship but through living lives
of praise.




psalm 69 The Message



Compare with

A Cry for Help (GNT)

69 Save me, O God!
    The water is up to my neck;
I am sinking in deep mud,
    and there is no solid ground;
I am out in deep water,
    and the waves are about to drown me.
I am worn out from calling for help,
    and my throat is aching.
I have strained my eyes,
    looking for your help.

Those who hate me for no reason
    are more numerous than the hairs of my head.
My enemies tell lies against me;
    they are strong and want to kill me.
They made me give back things I did not steal.
My sins, O God, are not hidden from you;
    you know how foolish I have been.
Don't let me bring shame on those who trust in you,
    Sovereign Lord Almighty!
Don't let me bring disgrace to those who worship you,
    O God of Israel!
It is for your sake that I have been insulted
    and that I am covered with shame.
I am like a stranger to my relatives,
    like a foreigner to my family.

My devotion to your Temple burns in me like a fire
the insults which are hurled at you fall on me.
10 I humble myself[b] by fasting,
    and people insult me;
11 I dress myself in clothes of mourning,
    and they laugh at me.
12 They talk about me in the streets,
    and drunkards make up songs about me.

13 But as for me, I will pray to you, Lord;
    answer me, God, at a time you choose.
Answer me because of your great love,
    because you keep your promise to save.
14 Save me from sinking in the mud;
    keep me safe from my enemies,
    safe from the deep water.
15 Don't let the flood come over me;
    don't let me drown in the depths
    or sink into the grave.

16 Answer me, Lord, in the goodness of your constant love;
    in your great compassion turn to me!



“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.”

No image better captured for the ancient Israelites what it feels like when the
bottom drops out, than the image of flooding waters. That image is prevalent
in the Psalter’s prayers of disorientation (also called “prayers for help” and
“laments”), and not just in Psalm 69. For example, Psalm 130 begins with the
famous cry, “Out of the depths, I cry to you.” Psalm 42/43 despair, “all your
waves and your billows have passed over me” (42:7). And Psalm 88 cries
out, “Your dread assaults ... enclose me like a flood” (verses 16b-17a). 

The image still speaks with surprising force. When have you felt like you were
“up to your neck” and couldn’t take any more? When have you felt like you were
simply “drowning” in stress or crisis? We still speak this way. 

And we still have a God who listens to us in crisis. Who hears us when we pray. 

The Psalter’s prayers for help give voice to the deepest expressions of human pain,
crisis, and doubt. But they do so in a way that claims the promise of God's presence
in the midst of our suffering and also the promise that the God-who-is-with-us will
preserve us.

This confirmation that we will not be neglected or abandoned by God is repeated
in the  famous Gospel message of Matthew 7.


Matthew 7:7-11Good News Translation (GNT)

Ask, Seek, Knock

7 “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock,
and thedoor will be opened to you. For everyone who asks
will receive, andanyone who seeks will find, and the door will
be opened to those who knock. Would any of you who are
fathers give your son a stone whenhe asks for bread? 10 Or
would you give him a snake when he asks fora fish? 11 As bad
as you are, you know how to give good things to your children.
How much more, then, will your Father in heaven give good
things to those who ask him!



 (based on Psalm 69)

With work to do and tasks to complete

ends to achieve and plans to make:

Where did the time go?


With children to nurture and chauffeur around,

and parents to care for and worry about:

Where did my energy go?


With a mind overactive and hard to untangle,

while time for myself goes to the foot of the list:

Where did my peace go?


With priorities jumbled and no light in sight;

as life under a cloud seems the relentless experience:

Where did God go?


With all my self-concern

and my self-centred perspective on life

in times of overwhelming anguish and emptiness

may I hear the whisper of presence:

I did not go anywhere ...

seek, and you will find I am with you always!







            A Prayer of Praise

 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    I will fear no one.
The Lord protects me from all danger;
    I will never be afraid.

When evil people attack me and try to kill me,
    they stumble and fall.
Even if a whole army surrounds me,
    I will not be afraid;
even if enemies attack me,
    I will still trust God.[b]

I have asked the Lord for one thing;
    one thing only do I want:
to live in the Lord's house all my life,
    to marvel there at his goodness,
    and to ask for his guidance.
In times of trouble he will shelter me;
    he will keep me safe in his Temple
    and make me secure on a high rock.
So I will triumph over my enemies around me.
    With shouts of joy I will offer sacrifices in his Temple;
    I will sing, I will praise the Lord.

Hear me, Lord, when I call to you!
    Be merciful and answer me!
When you said, “Come worship me,”
I answered, “I will come, Lord.”
    Don't hide yourself from me!

Don't be angry with me;
    don't turn your servant away.
You have been my help;
    don't leave me, don't abandon me,
    O God, my savior.
10 My father and mother may abandon me,
    but the Lord will take care of me.

11 Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do,
    and lead me along a safe path,
    because I have many enemies.
12 Don't abandon me to my enemies,
    who attack me with lies and threats.

13 I know that I will live to see
    the Lord's goodness in this present life.
14 Trust in the Lord.
    Have faith, do not despair.
Trust in the Lord.


Very similar to the prayers for help, the psalms of trust are prayed from a situation
of severe crisis. What Psalm 27 calls the time when "evildoers assail me" (27:2),
or Psalm 46 calls the times when "waters roar and foam" and the "mountains
tremble" (46:3). These psalms are very, very clear that life in God’s creation isn’t
safe. There are very clear and present dangers.


The major difference between the prayers for help and the psalms of trust is the
dominant mood. Both types of psalm depend on God. Both types of psalm at least
imply a request for help. And both types of psalm include expressions of trust.
However, whereas the prayers for help strike a note of fear and desperation, the
psalms of trust hit a chord of trust.


An interpreter might imagine the prayers for help as the prayers of those who are
younger, who are going through their first times of crisis, while the psalms of trust
are the words of those who have more experience of life’s ups and downs.  There
may be some truth in that, for although faith is tested at many times throughout our
lives, perhaps it is a mature faith that is able to hold on and to trust during dark times.
Even though the crisis is horrible, they are able to trust on the basis of past
experience that a brighter tomorrow will soon dawn.  Maybe that is the way it
should be.

Psalms of trust are perfectly clear on how dangerous and deadly life can be. But also
that they are words of trust from those who been there before, who’ve had the bottom
drop out, but who “cried to the Lord” and discovered the light of salvation.




“The Lord is my light and salvation”

(Psalm 27)


light shines in the dark

offering direction

light shines in the dark

and guides us to our true home

light shines in the dark

and we know someone is carrying a torch for us

light shines in the dark

through goodness, truth and forgiveness

light shines in the dark

and we know someone has sparked a flame

light shines in the dark

and we know a fire has been kindled

light shines in the dark

and yet the dark cannot snuff it out

light shines in the dark

and our salvation is near.


       Psalm 146



Praise the Lord!
    Praise the Lord, my soul!
I will praise him as long as I live;
    I will sing to my God all my life.

Don't put your trust in human leaders;
    no human being can save you.
When they die, they return to the dust;
    on that day all their plans come to an end.

Happy are those who have the God of Jacob to help them
    and who depend on the Lord their God,
the Creator of heaven, earth, and sea,
    and all that is in them.
He always keeps his promises;
    he judges in favor of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets prisoners free
    and gives sight to the blind.
He lifts those who have fallen;
    he loves his righteous people.
He protects the strangers who live in our land;
    he helps widows and orphans,
    but takes the wicked to their ruin.

10 The Lord is king forever.
    Your God, O Zion, will reign for all time.

Praise the Lord!


The Psalter ends with an extended call to praise reflected in the final

seven psalms.  Psalm 146 is one of these psalms calling us to praise

and inviting us to trust.

The psalmist calls others to praise the Lord (Praise the Lord!) and at

the same time exhorts himself or herself to praise the Lord (Praise the

Lord, O my soul!).  In the reasons for praise, the psalmist emphasizes

that God is the only one in whom we can truly place our trust: “Do not

put your trust in princes, in mortals in whom there is no trust.”  The psalm

then recounts God as both creator and deliverer: The one who made

heaven and earth and sets the prisoners free, heals the sick, lifts up

the oppressed. 


These acts, of course, are not universal -- not everyone experiences every

grace from God. The Psalter knows that we grow sick, we can be killed,

we are oppressed. But God moves in the midst of sufferings, sustaining

God’s people and pulling the beloved creation forward into God’s preferred

future. These acts of deliverance are representative of God’s characteristic

intrusions into a broken and suffering world.  It is a song of trust in the light

of all of life’s experiences.